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DCC Minutes 12-08-2010
Dukes County Commission
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
5 p.m.
Dukes County Administration Building
9 Airport Road, Edgartown, MA

Commissioner Present: Carlene Gatting, Tristan Israel, Melinda Loberg, Les Leland, Tom Hallahan and Lenny Jason.

County Staff present: Russell H. Smith – County Manager, Martina Thornton – Ex. Assistant to County Manager, Noreen Mavro Flanders – County Treasurer, T.J. Hegarty – Integrated Pest Management, Connie Teixeira – Assoc. Commissioner for Homeless.

*Others: Animal Shelter Board members: Duncan Ross – Chair, Diane Dozier, Greg Orcutt, Mary Jane Pease, David Nash; Lisa Hayes – Animal Shelter Coordinator; Jessica Burnham, Jennifer Morgan, Barbara Prada, Joanie Ames of MVTV.

1. Meeting was called to order at 5:10 PM

2. Animal Shelter Board presentation – Duncan Ross, Chairman
This animal shelter started when the MSPCA left the island. It serves the island wide community and it is great PR for the County. It is a no kill shelter that helps in three ways: It helps the people that have to give up animals, it helps the animals to have a home and it helps to adopt them out to new owners. There are island unique issues that contribute to the need of having a shelter: the phenomenon of summer pets left behind and the cultural differences of some residents that do not see the need to spay and neuter. The animal control officers recognize it as helpful as well. Over the course of 18 months it helped 31 dogs (30 adopted out), 143 cats (118 adopted out), 6 Guinea pigs (4 adopted out), 4 rabbits (2 adopted out) – for total of 238 animals. When dogs or cats are killed on the road they are brought to the shelter freezer where they stay until Angel Memorial comes to pick them up for cremation (about once a week). The shelter also provides other community benefits – educational workshops, rabies clinic, outlet for court and school community requirements and plans for hurricane preparedness to help animals. The board is a working board with members from most island towns. The shelter is financially self-sufficient. In the last fiscal year we brought in $144K and had expenses of $73K. The connection with the County makes the shelter a credible organization with fiscal responsibility. Donors know that their donations will be accounted for and spent on the island. The shelter received a couple of grants. Just today we received a letter that a $15K grant was granted by the Rhode Island Foundation thanks to David Thompson. In the future the shelter was promised by the MSPCA to get the building. The board is planning to set up Friends of the Animal Shelter as a step towards a stand alone non-profit organization, which they would like to do if they can get the building and an endowment fund. At this time the shelter needs the county umbrella, it can not afford to fail the same way the MSPCA failed the island. The recent county Dept. of Revenue (DOR) report talks about the County providing regional services. The County is doing just that thanks to Russell and Martina, the board, the employees and the volunteers that come in to help. It could serve as a model for what the county can do to provide regional services. Through research they found that Calaveiras County in California is providing a county wide animal control and the animal shelter is run separately by board of directors. The Dukes County has history of providing animal control and it would make sense in this financial climate.

Lenny asked about the crematorium. Duncan said that it needs repairs and they would like to wait until they get the building before they make this fairly big expense. It would be for charge as the MSPCA did charge before and right now all animals need to be shipped off island to be cremated which is even more costly. Tom said he would be for island wide animal control policy but questioned if the building is big enough to house that department. Duncan said the towns could in the future contribute to the animal control, but collectively spend less. However it could not be run from that building. Tristan supported the idea of regionalizing the rules for animal control. Carlene said that the county has a shrinking budget and is unable to take on any more employees. We had to do it with the animal shelter but prefer not to - at least in the short term. We need to figure out if the county could provide support and set up entities as separate 501(c) 3 organizations under the county umbrella that could operate independently with their own employees and the county would provide only the administrative oversight. Russell said that a 501 (c) 3 organization can not be part of a government, they would have to do their own accounting, payroll and be independent from the government. The only way to do it is if the government would contract with the non-profit to provide a certain service. Diane Dozier said that the shelter could not currently operate independently as it would be too costly, they would like to do it within 5-6 years when the shelter has a better financial standing and they know what their budget is and if they can afford it. They don’t want to put the animals at danger. If the county feels they can not provide the umbrella to the shelter in the next few years the shelter will have a serious problem. Russell reminded the commissioners that they received a letter couple month ago from the county counsel that the Massachusetts constitution prevents governments from supporting non-profit organization. The only way is if they contract for services. Carlene asked why we could not do it that way as it would only be procedural change and not different from what is happening now. Greg Orcutt replied that that would mean the additional cost to do all the paperwork associated with the 501 (c) 3 – couple of thousands of dollars just for the filings every year. Tristan asked why it could not work the same way as Trustees of the Library, who are town officials and then there are Friends of Vineyard Haven Library. The town contributes to the maintenance of the building, employees are town employees. Tristan asked about the status of receiving the building. Russell said that the MSPCA is in negotiations with the veterinarian in the front building about the front property. Once that is done we expect to start negotiations about the shelter building. Carlene asked if the money from the sale of the front property is going off island. Russell said yes. The shelter received legal opinions regarding this issue. Lenny asked if the shelter can operate on raised funds. Duncan said he believes it can for at least 2-3 years, but not long term without an endowment fund. Melinda said that we should develop a plan for the future and be ready structurally in time to receive the building. Diane Dozier said that regardless who received the building from the MSPCA there should be a deed restriction that it is in perpetuity for the animals on Martha’s Vineyard. Tristan said that at one point most of the towns pledged money to financially support the shelter if needed up to certain amount. Lenny said that if the county gets the building we could get into procurement issue about giving it to the shelter later. Melinda replied that the shelter is not its own entity to receive the building at this time and they said they are not quite ready to become one. If the building is available next year, the county would be the logical entity to receive the building. Lenny said that the county could later do a RFP for services to be provided at the building. Carlene suggested meeting in a smaller group to discuss the couple of issues that are open (two county commissioners and two animal shelter board members). She ended the discussion with a note that she goes to the shelter all the time with her children and that it is a very clean and pleasant place, they have adorable animals and everyone should go and visit. Duncan said that it is mainly thanks to Lisa Hayes, the animal shelter manager. Lenny asked Noreen if the county could do the accounting for the shelter once they are a separate non-profit organization. Noreen said that maybe we could set up a separate agency agreement. These are questions we wanted the DOR to answer as part of their report.

*All guests left.

3. Homeless Project – Connie Teixeira, Associate Commissioner for Homeless
Connie explained that there are several organizations that participate in fighting homelessness on the island. The MV Island Counseling Center (Oak Bluffs) does intake and referral. Community Action Committee of the Cape and Islands (Hyannis) provides the federal and state funding and acts as a bridge to the Cape agencies that help us. The Housing Assistance Corporation (Hyannis) helps with housing needs and Duffy Health Center (Hyannis) provides shelter (Noah shelter) and funding for individual families that are anticipating being homeless or are homeless.Many of the homeless have substance abuse issues and do not want to come to a place where they have to play by the rules. They live in the houses that are empty for the winter or in unlocked cars. They tried to invite them for breakfast to get a count for the census, but they did not show up and they were only able to locate 3 on the streets. Connie explained the budget sheet she provided. They get discount rates in hotel/motels and many services pro bono. They provide housing, vouchers for meals to Linda Jeans, transportation to the Hyannis Noah shelter. They try to help families to pay the arrears fuel, rent, mortgage, homeowners insurance or childcare to be able to then apply for assistance and to be able to keep the families in their home. Last year the project received $15K from the stimulus money in addition to donations from churches and individuals. This was spent. Connie does not know if she will get federal funding this year until January. She is working on a 10 year plan what to do about homelessness on the island. Connie also submitted the in-kind service spreadsheet of expenses that are paid by her personally. She goes twice a month to Hyannis. She uses her own equipment to do flyers etc. Connie said that after working the numbers it made more sense to stay part of the bigger umbrella with the Cape and not separate the island efforts. Melinda asked if Connie could get a voucher from the County for the boat. Martina said we could. Tom asked how Connie coordinates her efforts with the Vineyard Housing Authority as they should be looking at all the aspects of housing. Connie said she co-operates with them and she is the first line of defense before people come to them, she works on the short term solution before they can figure out their long term goals like to get to the affordable housing or apply for rent assistance. The problems arise especially in the winter months with the gap of income due to the seasonal economy. She would like to ask for $5K or any part off it to help immediately fund housing for homeless in the upcoming cold winter months. Russell asked how many homeless are there currently. Connie said she knows about 20 people on the streets right now and she has 6 families waiting to see if she can help them. She has $1,000 left in the account. Tristan asked if Connie is planning to go to towns with request for support. Connie said absolutely. Lenny asked how much is in the reserve fund. Noreen said about $100K. Melinda asked who will be the entity receiving the funds? Connie said that the Island Affordable Housing Fund – Homeless is handling the money that has been raised right now. Noreen said the County can not give money to a non-profit organization. Martina suggested moving the funds to the Associate Commissioners budget line and using it from there. Connie would bring actual bills to Noreen to pay. Noreen agreed.

Lenny/Tristan moved to take $5K out of the reserve fund and move it to the Associate Commissioners budget line.  Discussion: Tom suggested looking into creating a homelessness budget line item that would include each town’s contribution for homelessness to have some funds available for next year. Noreen reminded the commissioners that the County Advisory Board needs to approve the transfer as well, which can happen next week at the joint meeting. So voted. All in favor.

Martina asked who gets and administers the grant for homeless. Connie said the Affordable Housing Fund – Homeless.

4. Appointment to the MV Commission

Tristan/Melinda moved to nominate Lenny Jason as the County Commissioners representative to the MV Commission. Discussion: Carlene thanked Lenny for attending these long meetings. Lenny said there is a lot to be done. So voted. In favor: Carlene, Tristan, Tom, Melinda, Les. Lenny abstained.

Lenny said that the County sent a letter to the MV Commission back in March suggesting assisting them with accounting services. Lenny did not learn until last week that the executive committee met some time ago and have decided to continue their in house accounting. Carlene said that it is unfortunate as they could have saved substantial amount of money. Lenny said that the MV Commission adopted a budget for next year and it will be reviewed by all towns finance committees and he will continue to pursue this effort.  

5. County Manager’s Report
County services and functions v. expenses
Russell provided the commissioners with a list of county functions and services and explained each category. The services that the County fully funds; services partially funded by town warrant articles; the Registry of Deeds; the Airport and a group of services that we do not finance but provide support, housing and assistance to. He also explained the county income chart prepared by the Treasurer and presented previously, which shows that the Towns assessment represents 43% of the County’s income of which over 90% is the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) to the Sheriff’s Office and the Registry of Deeds. The towns and the county are obligated to pay the MOE by state law. This leaves the County less then 5% of the total assessment from the towns for the general operation. The last sheet showed a 14-year history of MOE showing that these MOE obligations accounted for over 90% of the town assessments collected by the County. This has left on average $55K per year from town assessments for the general operation of the County.

Cranberry Bog Protection Project developed in conjunction with the Tribe, which is fully funding it, was awarded to White Bros. - Lynch Corp. to install some catch basins by the road. It is being installed on county land and we will administer the project jointly with the Tribe and get $5-10K for our efforts.

State Dept. of Conservation and Recreation confirmed the renewal of a 5-year grant totaling $150K for management and preservation of the Joseph Sylvia State Beach.
Veteran’s services on the Island – Mr. Antanaccio informed Russell that tomorrow the VA is starting phone conversations with the MV Hospital to put forward three proposals – for primary care, for lab work and for prescriptions.

The MV Community Health Initiatives grants were awarded (see list attached). Martina said that the County applied for funds for several services - mosquito monitoring, Youth Task Force, and the Vineyard Health Care Access Program (VHCAP). The only one awarded that the County is part of is a joint application of the Vineyard Nursing Association, Island Health and VHCAP for prevention of chronic diseases. It is $50K for 5 years and Sarah is expecting to receive only minimal portion of that amount.

6. Finance Committee Report – Tom Hallahan
There will be a joint meeting with the County Advisory Board (CAB) on December 15th at 5pm where the budget process will be discussed. Martina typed up the budget process guidelines (see attached) that combine the budget guidelines from 2007 and new proposed deadlines to improve the process. We are behind schedule at this point but hope to catch up by January 1st. The joint meeting with the CAB is to determine the budget guidelines for next year that will go out with the budget worksheets. The budget worksheet should go out to the department heads the next day. Lenny suggested amending the current budget guidelines accordingly including the two joint meetings and leaving it up to the CAB if they agree to it at the joint meeting next week. Tristan asked what the commissioners plan to present to CAB as the proposed guidelines. Tom said that 2.5% increase would be in place as we can not go more then 2.5% and we were at zero % increase for FY2011.

Noreen said that the law allows the County to have an override and there was one in 1993 for $150K, which was to keep the communication center services at current level and went to the Sheriff’s budget. We got the 2.5% increase in all other years and only in FY2011 did we receive a zero increase. When the CAB voted it they were told that the next year they could go up by 5% - use the 2.5% from the previous year, which is true for the towns but not the County, we only can go up 2.5% without an override. So the CAB did put us effectively back one year. The towns have the option of an override but also their levy limits can change, the County does not have this option.

Tristan suggested talking to the CAB about a long-term financial plan for the County. Russell said that the County in last two years did not have to use the reserve funds, which is improvement from prior years. We need to provide only services that the community wants and the towns will pay for. Tristan said (mentioning the MV Commission) that county function and planning function are in other counties under one organization. Lenny said that how it originally was.

Noreen presented the commissioners with list of funds that the Treasurer’s Office oversees (see attached). She explained that there are about 200 funds, and each is as a little business, with expense and income accounts. Most of the Sheriff’s funds became inactive in the last year; some are capital project funds that are inactive once they are finished. The total for this year including Airport projects is about $31 million, not just the $1.9 million in the general fund that you look at part of the county budget. There are many things that you don’t even think are part of the County. We still act as an agent for the Sheriff for detail duty and project life savers and we get a 10% fee. Dog fund collects the dog license fees from the towns and if not used during the year, it goes back each time to be used for libraries. The Parking Clerk fund, Deed excise fund, Revolving fund for the Airport and the VHCAP has several different grants that each need to be accounted for separately. The county commissioners need to understand what the County does and Noreen will be happy to answer any questions. All the funds that come to the County are audited and the federal grants also require special reporting. We act as agents for the State to sell deer permits; we don’t get any money for doing it. We act as agents for Trustees of Reservation, we sell theirs beach permits. It is their money not the County’s. The County acts as an agent for the towns in getting a license for the GIS System software, which saves the towns money.

Carlene asked why it is necessary to complete the budget process in March. Lenny said that the intent is to be on the schedule as the towns. Tom said the latest deadline for the budget would be June.

Lenny/ Tristan moved to incorporate the improved budget guidelines into the Administrative Code under Budget Policies. So voted. All in favor.

Tristan/Less moved to adjourn the meeting at 6:55 p.m. All in favor.

Respectfully Submitted by:

JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO JR., Clerk of the Courts

Documents presented at the meeting and part of the official records:

  • Agenda
  • Animal Shelter Board presentation & brochure
  • Assoc. Commissioner for Homeless report & budget
  • County Functions & Services list
  • FY2011 General Fund Income chart
  • Maintenance of Effort history
  • Letter from Dept. of Conservation and Recreation regarding grant
  • Martha’s Vineyard Community Health Initiative grant awards
  • List of funds administered by the Treasurer’s Office
  • Budget Process Guidelines
  • Letter from DOR in response to the comments of their Financial Management Review
  • Correspondence from T.J. Hegarty
  • MV/DC Fishermen’s Association invitation to a fundraiser
  • Cape Light Compact monthly report
  • Steamship Authority November 23, 2010 meeting agenda memorandum

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